The legal process often seems to be unreasonably slow to those who don’t understand all the ins and outs of litigation. Unexpected delays are common and it may seem that each one is nothing more than an unacceptable excuse. If you have a better understanding of the timing of a typical medical or birth malpractice case, you will have more reasonable expectations about your own case and when it might be completed.
It is not uncommon for a medical malpractice case to take two years or longer to either settle or go to trial. These cases don’t take this long because your lawyer isn’t doing her job, or because the opposing party is “stalling.” There are a number of legitimate reasons why delays are common in medical and birth malpractice litigation.
- Gathering documents takes time: Before your lawyer is able to give you an opinion about whether or not you have a medical malpractice claim, your lawyer will likely need certain documents and information from doctors and hospital records.
- Your injuries may take time to resolve: Depending on your injuries, it may be some time before your doctors are able to provide you with a definitive diagnosis or predict how quickly you will recover with any certainty. You can’t be certain of the damages that you have sustained until your doctors can provide you with an opinion on this subject.
- Interim applications may be necessary: Sometimes the parties disagree about how the litigation should proceed and one party will apply to the court for an order to resolve the disagreement. These applications are often about the production of documents that one party does not want to produce or questions that a party does not want to answer.
- Scheduling issues can cause delays: It can take time to coordinate the court’s schedule with those of the parties, their lawyers and all of the witnesses.
- After a trial, it may be several weeks or months before you receive the judge’s decision. This is because the judge who heard your case will be assigned a new case the day after your trial ends. The judge doesn’t have a week to sit around thinking about your case and writing up the decision. Judges may have a couple of weeks each year that are set aside for writing decisions, but you will never know ahead of time what your judge’s schedule will allow. You can rest assured that your judge will issue a decision on your case as soon as possible.